Ogden officials OK change to homeless ordinance; no crackdown afoot
OGDEN — Ogden officials have approved change to city code governing homeless encampments aimed at making the rules easier to enforce.
No push to crack down on the homeless in the city is afoot. Rather, the aim of the change — approved 6-1 by the Ogden City Council — is to update language in the code to comply with dictates of a state homeless initiative that provides the city with some $1.7 million a year to contend with the issue.
The new wording more precisely defines camps as they pertain to the homeless population, prohibiting them on “public property” in the city, including parks. The updated ordinance also prohibits staying in cars or recreational vehicles parked on public property. Moreover, it prohibits people from leaving their personal items on public property for more than 15 minutes, a provision aimed at homeless people who cart their belongings with them and place them in public places.
“Prohibitions are common in cities where unauthorized camping leads to public spaces being rendered really unusable for a time for their intended use,” Ogden Parks Manager Monte Stewart, who helped with the update, told the City Council last week. Homeless encampments, he said, can lead to “health risks to campers themselves and the surrounding community, environmental damage, fire damage, criminal activity and conflict with residents and businesses.”
Ogden officials say homeless people sometimes frequent several parks around Ogden. A homeless encampment popped up in late 2020 along 33rd Street near Lantern House, a homeless shelter, but city officials dismantled it.
City Council Chairperson Angela Choberka expressed reservations with the measure, wondering, among other things, if regular parkgoers could be caught up given some of the wording of the update.
“I’m just trying to think through it in the most humane way possible,” she said. She cast the sole no vote when the issue came up at the City Council’s Aug. 1 meeting.
“It’s trying to drill down on those who are camping in the public spaces and not those that are sitting (in a park) on a blanket,” Stewart responded.
Likewise, Mayor Mike Caldwell, whose administration sought the change, emphasized that police would still work with the homeless, tapping the assistance of the department’s homeless services advocate. “I can say without exception that our police department would go speak with them, bring our homeless advocate in,” he said.